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CCA Aluminum Narwhals robotics team wins first-ever regional competition

2022 FRC San Diego Regional winner: Aluminum Narwhals
2022 FRC San Diego Regional winner: Aluminum Narwhals

(Emma Chan)

The Aluminum Narwhals, the local robotics team from Canyon Crest Academy in Carmel Valley, made history by winning its first-ever regional competition March 20. Founded in 2009, this year’s team overcame the disruption brought on by COVID to clinch its first regional win in San Diego, thereby punching its ticket to the FIRST Robotics World Championship event in Houston, Texas in late April.

The journey to winning was not easy. To guarantee a spot for Houston, a robotics team needs to be among the top two teams at a regional competition. The Narwhals had two chances–the Port Hueneme Regional competition held several weeks ago, and the recent San Diego Regional, held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

At the Port Hueneme Regional, the Narwhals had to devise multiple on-site fixes in between matches to field a competitive robot. They were among a few select teams that achieved successful climbs to the highest traversal bar, which stands over 6 feet tall; and they were one of only two teams that completed a side-by-side traversal bar climb, arguably the most difficult component of the match. For this task, the robot must lift itself off the ground and swing across multiple elevating bars, similar to monkey bars.

The Narwhals showed incredible resilience under challenging conditions and advanced to the playoffs. The team made it as far as the quarterfinals and won a post-competition award—the “Innovation in Control Award.” This award commends the team for its excellence in programming the “Narwhal Dashboard” that provides the robot driver with a graphical interface, giving instant feedback on the performance of the robot. Despite a solid showing at Port Hueneme, the ticket to Houston eluded the Narwhals.

Team 3128 robot hanging from the traversal bar along with alliance partner 6560.
Team 3128 robot hanging from the traversal bar along with alliance partner 6560.
(Emma Chan)

At the San Diego Regional Competition on March 17-19, the Narwhals had a great start during qualification matches, with a record of 8-1-0 and ranked 3rd out of 53 teams. During the playoff round, they joined two other teams to form Alliance 1, the top-seeded alliance. In the play-off matches, the Narwhals went 6-0-0 sweeping the Finals Matches and winning the San Diego Regional. This was a remarkable accomplishment and was the first time in school history that the Canyon Crest Academy’s Aluminum Narwhals won a regional competition. In winning the regional, the team is now headed to the highly competitive FIRST Robotics World Championships in Houston in late April.

In addition to becoming champions of the San Diego Regional, the Aluminum Narwhals were also awarded the “Gracious Professionalism” award at the end of the competition. The award recognized the team for its outstanding efforts in helping and supporting other teams during the competition. The Narwhals created an innovative work schedule called “Aluminum Assistance,” to ensure all team members were available in case any of the other teams at the regional needed help to fix a part in their robot. This award demonstrates humility and positivity among team members and exemplifies the principles of FIRST through gracious professionalism.

One particular Narwhal received the special recognition of the Dean’s List Award Finalist. This award highlights students who actively represent and advocate for the values of FIRST robotics and individuals who display exceptional leadership and dedication to the spread of robotics in their teams and communities. Shrey Goel was recognized as one of the two students who received the award at the regional. Shrey will compete among the other finalists around the world at the World Championships in April for the highly competitive Dean’s List Award.

— Reported by Emma A. Chan and Kate Piekarski


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